Demolition crews have moved in to the Morris Walk Estate on the Charlton/Woolwich border, starting a year of work to dismantle the 1960s blocks before work can start on 900 new homes.
The estate is being redeveloped in conjunction with the Connaught Estate in Woolwich, which has largely been rebuilt by developer Lovell as Trinity Walk. The company hopes to start work on the new homes at Morris Walk in autumn 2021.
Built in the mid-1960s as part of a long-delayed slum clearance programme – Morris Walk was one of the streets destroyed – the estate was constructed using prefabricated parts built at a factory in Norwich and taken by train to Charlton, where lorries would take the parts to the estate. Two flats were put together each day. The first tenants were housed in December 1964, and the estate was finished by the autumn of 1966.
The distinctive blocks were seen as a success at the time, but within a year of the estate being completed severe condensation started to blight its 562 homes along with rodents and poor soundproofing. A gas explosion at Ronan Point – built using similar methods – across the river in Canning Town in 1968 led to more worries about the blocks, and they were refurbished in the mid-1980s. Plans to demolish the blocks were announced in 2006. Delays have reset the project since then, with discord between the council and Lovell. Demolition was due to begin two years ago.
In 2014, outline planning permission was given for up to 766 homes – a quarter for social rent and 10 per cent for shared ownership. Those plans envisaged tall blocks to the north with houses and maisonettes to the south. However, a new masterplan is being prepared and detailed plans will have to be approved by Greenwich Council before work can begin. A consultation is due later this year.
Chris Wallace, the construction director at Lovell said: “The demolition work is a very complex procedure which has to be carefully planned due to the height and layout of the estate, the vicinity of the rail lines and proximity of the local community. As usual, health and safety is our key priority and we will communicate to the local residents on a regular basis.”
The start of demolition comes after the Ministry of Defence and police apologised to neighbours for setting off explosions in the derelict estate in June.
Both Greenwich Council and Lovell said they were not responsible for allowing emergency services to carry out exercises on the estate, with conflicting accounts over what happened. Lovell has now blamed a “miscommunication” between it, the MoD, police and council.
The MoD said: “We regret that the conduct of this exercise caused disruption, particularly as the activity took place late in the day. The Ministry of Defence continues to be extremely grateful for the support from the local community for critical exercises such as this, and we apologise for the inconvenience it has caused.”
The Metropolitan Police said: “The Metropolitan Police Service were advised of a military exercise due to be held on the 23rd June at the Morris Walk Estate. The MPS regrettably did not foresee the impact that this would have on the community. We apologise for any upset or distress caused to the community by the Military activity during their training exercise.”
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